Rendering ‘Happy Feet 2’ at 30kW a Rack

The Australian data center powering the animated Penguins from the 2007 feature "Happy Feet" has been slimmed down, packing its supercomputing power into an APC hot aisle containment pod.

In the sequel to “Happy Feet,” the Penguins will be the same size. But the data center will be smaller. The digital production company Dr. D Studios has packed a large amount of supercomputing power into a smaller package in its new rendering facility in Sydney, Australia.

In 2007, Animal Logic won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year for “Happy Feet”, while the company’s data center was ranked 260th in the Top 500 in 2006. 

Happy Feet producer George Miller has since founded Dr. D Studios, which has taken the lead on animation for the sequel and is preparing a new supercomputer grid cluster for rendering “Happy Feet 2” as well as visual effects for “Fury Road,” a fourth film in the Mad Max series. The first 1,000 cores of the new system are online and placed in an APC hot aisle containment pod. 

From 150 Chassis to 24
Sydney-based Dr. D Studios is enjoying the advances in compute density as they fit everything into just 24 chassis, instead of the 250 that it took for the original Happy Feet.  James Bourne, infrastructure engineering manager for Dr. D sums it up nice by saying that “back [in 2005], we were working with single-core [Intel] Xeons; as hyperthreading was of little benefit.  Each blade had two cores then – now they have eight – and 16 per node should hyper-threading be turned on.  Memory density has increased as well now from 1.5GB per node to 24GB.”

The original data center Animal Logic used to render Happy Feet was an Equinix facility in Sydney.  Now that 30kW of power per cabinet is needed for the sequel, Dr. D Studios turned to APC pods to provide water cooled housing in an E3 Networks data center. This allows provisioning of 6,000 cores in a space of no more than 10 x 5 meters (32 x 16 feet). 

HP blade servers will be used for the 6,000 cores.  The space and power available to Dr. D in the E3 facility will allow it to scale the cluster to 12,000 cores if necessary.  Peak rendering, in mid-2011 is expected to surpass 6,000 cores and hopefully land a second Australia supercomputer on the Top500 list.

Several Expansions for Pegasus Site
The E3 Networks Pegasus data center in Sydney has had several expansions and has a 110 square meter (1,184 square foot) suite for Dr. D Studios.  The E3 data center is close to Global Switch, Equinix and a Dr. D facility in Carriageworks, Redfern and will be connected by Internet Service Provider Cincenet. Australia’s iTnews recently covered the facility specifications as well as a video tour, which is embedded below:

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About the Author

John Rath is a veteran IT professional and regular contributor at Data Center Knowledge. He has served many roles in the data center, including support, system administration, web development and facility management.

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  1. Concerned listener

    Er.... I hope somebody has been misquoted here but... Dr D Studios did not make Happy Feet. They did not win an Oscar for Happy Feet in 2007. They did not have a 4096 core supercomputer which landed them in the Top 500 list in 2008 and... They did not in fact any systems in the Equinix Data Centre. All of the facts around this story relate to the Oscar Winning makers of Happy Feet, Animal Logic. The 4096 core system mentioned above is not even the system which made Happy Feet, it refers to the first incarnation of Animal Logic's current render farm, which has since been expanded to more than double that size. Please check your facts!

  2. dan

    "In 2007, Dr. D’s movie Happy Feet won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year" ??? It was Animal Logic's movie and Oscar. what's wrong with you guys?

  3. Klaus

    "In 2007, Dr. D’s movie Happy Feet won the Oscar for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, while its 4,096-core data center earned position 145 on the November 2008 Top500 Supercomputer list. In November 2009 it was #447. " NICE RESEARCH to whoever wrote this!!!! LOL Look into what year Dr. D has been established and what studio actually DID Happy Feet 1! Ever heard of Animal Logic?!?!

  4. We've updated the story to reflect the fact that different animation studios were involved in the original "Happy Feet" and the sequel. Animal Logic created the original Happy Feet produced by George Miller, who then founded Dr. D Studios, which has taken the lead on the animation work for "Happy Feet 2." Our apologies to Animal Logic for the oversight. Many thanks to the readers who alerted us to this error.

  5. Flem

    Some more corrections. "while the company’s 4,096-core data center by animator earned position 145 on the November 2008 Top500 Supercomputer list. In November 2009 it was #447." The cluster installed in 2008 was NOT used on Happy Feet. The cluster used on happy feet was ranked 260 in 2006 and hasn't ranked since.

  6. Thanks, Flem. We've updated the story to reflect that information as well.

  7. My cube technology can have a million processors on one floor. One video cube could be amazing but quad HD video cube outputs will greater then amazing. I believe all supercomputers in the future will use my cube technology. Richard John Harris II